The Only Tribe
By Rebecca Bannor-Addae

The Only Tribe live on a plain stretching further than far. None of the tribe members have ever been able to locate the ending of the plain or the beginning of something new. They do not know of another home or of other tribes, should they exist. The tribe has lived isolated on the plain for time immortal.

The Only Tribe performs many rituals and ceremonies passing on customs and beliefs to the younger generations, which in turn nourishes tradition while inventing new acts of praxis. In truth, at some point in history the Only Tribe had cultivated such an abundance of rituals, myths and symbols that someone had to be appointed the job of custom caretaker (identity caretaker). Hence the Lummo was created. Lummo is the name for the old and wise male member of the Only Tribe. He embodies tradition and protects it by reminding and advising tribe members on past and present rituals.

Kidao is a bright star emerging in the sky every three years. The star remains visible for just one day and shines its brightest the hour after midnight, the time when the Only Tribe performs its major ceremony. Much of the tribe’s mythology derives from Kidao. They believe their ancestors descended from this star and when a tribe member dies, he is said to return to Kidao. Hence the Only Tribe lived on earth and returned to the universe for many more life cycles than we are able to count (identity thus prevails in a frame of continuity i.e. the reoccurring star is a point of reference to past and present. The star is a stipulated symbol of the tribe’s unity).

But there came a time when isolation punctured. At first one unfamiliar silhouette appeared on the horizon of the plain, then another, and another. The strangers told stories of their land, of the many tribes they had met on their journey, tales of otherness, of exhilaration and horror. The Only Tribe listened in awe and with some uneasiness and the Lummo and the elders sat down to discuss the arrival of the newcomers. They talked for many days before agreeing to introduce their guests to the many rites, myths, customs and symbols of the Only Tribe.

The newcomers brought a myriad of belongings and customs new to the Only Tribe. Some brought appliances to ease chores such as washing and planting seeds. Others kept animals inside the house and made much noise when the Only Tribe slaughtered chickens for dinner. When a person died, instead of leaving the dead body out in the open for the soul to fly back to the ancestors, the newcomers cut down the sparse trees to create a box for the body that was put to rest under ground. More and more newcomers arrived. There was a constant tumult of commotion, music, construction and voices speaking many different tongues. Old people sat in forgotten corners and young ones disobeyed their parents. The newcomers wanted to capture everything present. They pinched butterflies to walls, they created sunshine in the middle of the night, scribbled down words of songs and conversation as if they feared their memory would fail. They even captured moments, which they glued onto sheets of paper.

The Only Tribe was aghast. They found themselves surrounded by strangers. It was no longer their plain and when mothers of the newcomers reached into the sky plucking stars to give to their children as trinkets, the Only Tribe members released their fears. The Lummo called for an emergency session and the Only Tribe agreed to hastily construct a fence tall enough to shield Kidao (the star) from newcomers.

The fence is almost done, reaching far into the universe (the fence is a fortification, a four-sided construction securing the star against onlookers - ultimately this includes the eyes of Only Tribe). It is midnight and Kidao is soon to shine its brightest. The ceremony is pulsating and the Only Tribe is beating the drums hard, empowered by rediscovering their pivot of ancestry. At the height of the festivities Kidao falls from the sky, like a shooting star it surges through the universe (symbol of fragility of identity and the illusions we construct hoping to retain what we think we know. The fear of loss manifests in reality).

The Only Tribe is defeated. They are outnumbered and overwhelmed by otherness. In their desperation and rushed determination to preserve their identity, they have forgotten to live, to laugh, to cry, and to enjoy. Kidao, their symbol of unity, their reference to past and present has vanished. In the light of a discontinuous present lies an unknown future.
An upheaval of distressed emotions flourishes on the plain. It becomes a place without any possible orientation, where anything falls in every direction. The newcomers passionately fight to preserve their way of life while the Only Tribe struggles to define themselves.


© 2020 Roland Gebhardt